Although it’s true that no one is truly irreplaceable, it is possible to become a star employee that colleagues admire, competitors desire and employers would fight to keep. By Niteske Marshall

You’re good at your job, your manager loves you and you feel you make an enormously positive contribution to the company – great! But don’t fall into the trap of thinking this makes you indispensable. It doesn’t. And assuming you are irreplaceable could just spell your demise; no organisation likes an employee whose ego is bigger than the value they add to the business.

The truth is, any company that is overly dependent on one individual will never move beyond a certain growth point. It will never become what a sustainable business should be: a well-oiled machine drawing diverse strengths from various people.

So no, in the truest sense of the word you may not be indispensable, but through the right efforts it is possible to become an employee whose departure would constitute a worst-case scenario for the company.

Now I’m not referring to the corporate power plays and political manoeuvring that sycophants and colleague-saboteurs would be tempted to resort to. Rather, with the right attitude, behaviours and skillset, you could become a highly valued employee whose presence within a team is regarded as a critical success factor. And in a world where job security cannot be taken for granted, why wouldn’t you want to?


It seems obvious to state that a good attitude is vital to becoming a prize employee and being in hot demand by employers, but when last did you stop and take a critical look at your workplace attitude?

Carefully consider these questions (and a few attitude adjustments if you feel your answers aren’t up to scratch):

  • Can you demonstrate humility and professionalism when criticised or given negative feedback?
  • Do you constantly demonstrate a willingness to jump in and get involved when there is an extra or particularly difficult job that needs to be done?
  • Do you exhibit an understanding of the company’s goals and/or your manager’s goals, and try as much as possible to support these before your own agenda?
  • Are you generally cheerful and pleasant at work, or a serial complainer and killjoy?


When it comes to how you behave in the office, including your approach to your work and your colleagues, consider these pointers:

  • Be consistent and reliable, meet your deadlines and deliver on your promises. This will earn you a great reputation and prompt influencers to recommend your services across the organisation.
  • Be committed to quality. When tackling an important task or interaction, prepare well, and ask yourself if you’re adding value to the work and executing it in such a way that it makes a good impression on everyone involved.
  • Make an effort to align yourself with the peers on your team. It is not enough to have a great relationship with your manager when your colleagues think of you as competitive and self-absorbed.


It might come as a surprise to hear that highly valued employees don’t focus all their time on perfecting the skills necessary for their role. Instead, they aim to develop both their unique and complementary strengths.

In the Harvard Business Review article ‘Making yourself indispensable’, the authors compared developing these strengths to an athlete doing cross-training. ‘To move from good to much better, you need to engage in the business equivalent of cross-training. If you’re technically adept, for instance, delving even more deeply into technical manuals won’t get you nearly as far as honing a complementary skill such as communication, which will make your expertise more apparent and accessible to your co-workers,’ the article says.1

The key is to identify a current strength and decide which other skill is needed in combination with that to achieve greater success. If you are extremely capable at driving results but average at building relationships, you should improve the slightly weaker skill while continuing to maintain your core strength.

The result of this will be a significant increase in performance. According to the Harvard Business Review article, research findings of more than a quarter million 360° surveys of 30 000 developing leaders showed that the pairing of certain strengths resulted in higher overall leadership scores than any single strength on its own.

When individuals performed well in both categories, something dramatic happened: 72% of those in the 75th percentile in both categories reached the 90th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness, the article maintains.

By focusing on your attitude, your behaviour and strengthening certain skills, you not only succeed in making yourself ‘indispensable’ to your organisation, but also in enabling yourself to enjoy your job more because you feel secure, valued and are effectively increasing your likelihood of being promoted.


1 John H Zenger, Joseph Folkman and Scott Edinger, Making yourself indispensable, Harvard Business Review, October 2011.

Author: Niteske Marshall is MD of Network Recruitment